A Separate Peace (Or Was That Piece?)

Brooks: MS/AOL deal may mean the end for Netscape, but the browser wars have only begun.

Microsoft and AOL have kissed and made up, patching the differences that stemmed from the hardball tactics that made Internet Explorer king of browser mountain.

The $750 million that the deal will cost Microsoft is a great bargain, considering that it buys the continued use of IE in the AOL client application, wider distribution for its Windows Media technologies, and the potential for interoperability between MSN messenger and AOLs Instant Messenger software.

Also, making nice with AOL Time Warner leaves Microsoft more free to fight the tougher antitrust battles that still lie ahead, such as the one with Sun Microsystems—a firm less inclined to jump so quickly into the sack with Bill Gates and Co.

In any case, $750 million is a drop in the bucket compared to the billions that Microsoft has banked. Unfortunately, that figure probably doesnt register as much more than a drop in the bucket for AOL Time Warner, either, compared to the billions in debt with which its saddled.

Now that Netscape has served the only purpose that AOL probably ever intended it to serve—as a bargaining chip against a Microsoft loathe to see AOL switch its 32 million subscribers to a browser based on the open-source Mozilla project—it probably wont be long before AOL opts to trim costs by pulling funding from the Netscape/Mozilla project.

However, the browser wars are most certainly not over—theyve only begun. Regardless of what AOL does or doesnt do with the ugly stepchild that is the Mozilla-based version of its Netscape browser, Mozillas more vital offshoots will continue to pose a viable threat to the hegemony of Internet Explorer on the Web. The KDE projects Konqueror, and its Apple-crafted cousin, Safari, have also earned themselves a spot at the table, and Operas shown that people are willing to pay for innovation and platform inclusiveness in a proprietary Web browser.